They tell me ‘hyposmia’ is the word, when I inform them that I have been experiencing a decreased sense of smell over the last several years. It isn’t quite an easy life, especially when you don’t have a clue as to how you smell like after having sprayed yourself all over with a can of cologne. I look around for all the possible reasons, and finally attribute it to my allergies, my sneezing bouts, nasal polyps and a host of other reasons.
Those smell memories that I have, are incredible though. The whiff of the boiling fish curry in an earthen pot, as that final dollop of coconut oil is dropped over it, or the sparkling breeze that blows across your nose, brushing all over those full blooms of the Chembaka tree; the scent of an overturned lavender bottle or the sporadic nasal intervention, courtesy the occasional visits to the petrol pump or a spray paint store – those remembrances are here to stay.
And then those days, when you start realizing that not all is well with your nose, and you have almost lost the facility to sniff around, no pun intended. It isn’t easy to see your friends warm up to the arrival of a warm plate at the diner, drawing in deep breaths, when you comfort yourself with an almost fading memory of the odour that is supposed to be there.
One fine day, after having sworn to oneself, that it’s possible to live without drawing in those fine bouquets that make the earth appear more magnificent than it probably is, I arrive at the hospital, where my dad is rushed to, following cardiac issues. The initial pandemonium over, as I settle down on the blue plastic chair outside the Coronary Care Unit, I suddenly realize that I am blown over by the sturdy smell of methylated spirit. My nostrils twitch open in excitement as I watch a nurse walk outside, leaving the door that had let out the brief scent, close all by itself.
Startled, I get up and start walking around, the nosocomephobia in me threatening to break free any moment. Something in me screams Betadine, and then the whiff of antiseptic streams in. I know what Iodoform is, and all on a sudden, I know how exactly it smells like. Discarded cotton swabs and dumped syringe cartridges float around in my dizzy head that’s over whelmed by the smell of tincture benzoine. The rustle of the fresh linen on the creaky bed boards and the long, sweeping moves of the hospital hands dump lemon coloured floor disinfectants down my nose.
Something in me tells me that there is a vial of iodine lying open somewhere close by, and then I presume that its bleach that’s all set to invade my nose at the moment. Minutes later, the pungent smell of camphor sets in for a while, and is almost immediately replaced by the putrid odour of ammonia. Someone drags around an open garbage can, and the air reeks of dry blood and sore infections.
Back home, after the brief stint at the hospital, my nose seems to have gone back to its perpetual mood of indifference, and sits there like a peeved boy who has been thrown out of the class. How do I convince the ENT that it flares up only when shown the doors of the hospice, and that otherwise, I’m denied the fabulous fragrances of the world?